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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Peace/Disarmament
  • 2004.07.02
  • 504
BRING OUR TROOPS HOME (FROM KOREA) By John Feffer

(Editor’s Note: Excerpted from a new global affairs commentary available in full at http://www.fpif.org/commentary/2004/0406troopsout.html). The vortex of Korean politics can make even Donald Rumsfeld sound like the most radical Korean peace activist. “After the cold war,” he declared on June 3, “U.S. forces have been stationed in South Korea for too long.” The occasion was the announcement of the largest U.S. troop reductions from the Korean peninsula since the Korean War armistice, which took place 51 years ago this month. The Pentagon is withdrawing one-third of its forces from South Korea and sending a portion of them to Iraq. The Pentagon announcement comes just before a third round of Six-Party Talks that bring together the United States, North and South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia. The previous two rounds went nowhere and expectations for this third round are low. The United States is insisting on CVID or the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear programs--before any substantive compromise can be hammered out. Having declared North Korea beyond the pale, the Bush administration is stuck in a theological hole: any form of negotiations looks suspiciously like “supping with the Devil.” North Korea, meanwhile, has broached various scenarios whereby they freeze and then dismantle their programs in exchange for energy, economic incentives, security guarantees, or a mixture of the three. The complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Korea would certainly have its drawbacks. South Korea is spending more now on its defense than ever before and the Defense Ministry has called for an additional 13 percent increase in the military budget to compensate for the disappearing U.S. troops. The peace movement in Japan and Okinawa also want to bid farewell to U.S. troops, so the shifting of U.S. forces eastward, while a boon for the Korean peace movement, would not necessarily be a plus for the region as a whole. Still, U.S. troop withdrawal from the Korean peninsula would be such an enormous step toward resolving inter-Korean tensions that the benefits outweigh the costs. Beset on all sides for its Iraq policy, the Bush administration needs a foreign policy victory. It needs to demonstrate that it isn’t ignoring the Korean peninsula. And it needs to show the world that the United States, if only after 51 years, does eventually bring home its troops. (John Feffer (www.johnfeffer.com) is a regular contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) and the author, most recently, of North Korea, South Korea: U.S. Policy at a Time of Crisis (Seven Stories).)
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